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DENVER — A new rideshare service catering to kids has launched in Denver. HopSkipDrive began operations this week.
The California start-up is described as an “Uber for kids.” Parents schedule a ride online or through an app and are matched with a driver.
The company hopes to serve a market both Uber and Lyft don't. The two major rideshare companies don't allow riders under the age of 18 without a parent or guardian. Children ages 6 and up can use HopSkipDrive unattended.
"We put the parents in control," said Kelsey Keunstler with HopSkipDrive's new Denver office. "As soon as you're getting a ride, you're getting their bio, their childcare experience, a picture to show you child, so you're familiar with who is picking them up."
The idea of having your children shuttled around by a stranger may be unsettling for some, but the company is reassuring parents that its drivers are interviewed in person and have passed stringent background checks that include fingerprinting, which Lyft and Uber don't require.
Like a lot of mothers, Rhetta Shead sometimes feels like her real job title is driver.
"My daughter is 15 years old. Her name is Gabriella," said Shead. "She's a dancer. She is in orchestra, plays the upright bass. She's one the track team. She does everything."
So this week, this Lakewood mother got a little break from chauffeuring from HopSkipDrive.
"I was really nervous about sending her without me checking it out first," said Shead, who was comforted by the texts and emails throughout the ride. "For us, this was a great alternative to try, and I'll probably to it again and again because it works out so well and she loved it."
Once the ride is matched, parents receive a picture and a bio of the driver. Parents can also monitor the trip in real-time.
Rides start at $15, and carpool rides can be as low as $6 with multiple families in the car.
For some parents, though, there are too many risks involved to trust strangers with their most precious cargo.
"No thanks," said Maggie Cheney. "I would not want to put my kiddos in a car with a stranger and just let them go. Nope. I'll just drive them myself."
On the other side, Angela Coleman, a HopSkipDrive driver, points to a huge need, especially in families where both parents work. As a mother of five and a grandmother, she knows how hard it is to be in three places at once. She also driver for Uber, though, and said she wouldn't feel comfortable sending her kids with those drivers.
"It's always very worrisome for a mom to think who is driving my child," said Coleman. "I know the background checks for HopSkipDrive were more extensive."
HopSkipDrive was started in 2014 by three southern California moms. Since launching, the company has delivered hundreds of thousands of rides.
Currently, HopSkipDrive is available for families whose rides originate within the following communities: Belcaro, Bonnie Brae, Capitol Hill, Cherry Creek, Congress Park, Country Club, Curtis Park, Five Points, Golden Triangle, Harvey Park, Highlands, Hilltop, Krisana Park, LoDo, Lowry, Montclair, Park Hill, Platte Park, Regis, RiNo, Sloan’s Lake, Stapleton, Sunnyside, University Park, Uptown, Washington Park and Whittier.
The company hopes to expand services throughout the Front Range within weeks, and plans are in the works to expand to Boulder and Colorado Springs within months.